Toward a unified stratification theory: Structure, genome, and status across human societies


Journal Article

While social scientists and geneticists have a shared interest in the personal characteristics instrumental to status attainment, little has been done to integrate these disparate perspectives. This is unfortunate, as the perspectives offer complementary insights, which, if properly combined, stand to substantially improve understanding of the stratification process. This article synthesizes research from the social sciences and genetics to develop a multistage theory of how social structure moderates the influence of the genome on status outcomes. Its thesis is that the strength of the genome's influence on status is primarily moderated by two properties of social structure - levels of resource inequality and social mobility. Thus, it is theorized that under conditions of low inequality and high social mobility, the influence of the genome on status will be high relative to conditions of high inequality and low social mobility. The essential logic is (1) as inequality increases, the characteristics and abilities intrinsically useful in status attainment are increasingly influenced by individuals' social backgrounds and decreasingly determined by their genomes; and (2) as social closure and inequality increase, the utility of these characteristics and abilities to status attainment is diminished. In sum, a model of status attainment is developed proposing that while both genome and social background influence the status attainment process, the relative importance of these factors is determined by the surrounding structure of the society. © American Sociological Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Adkins, DE; Vaisey, S

Published Date

  • June 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 99 - 121

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1467-9558

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0735-2751

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.01339.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus